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The regions of the planet undergoing the most severe environmental degradation are the same as those experiencing the most rapid human population growth. Ninety eight percent of the increase in population is taking place in developing countries, many of which are the same countries where Conservation International (CI) focuses its work to protect biodiversity.

CI's mission recognizes that human welfare is critical to ensuring that conservation initiatives and actions worldwide are sustainable and effective. Addressing the issue of human population growth in and around the national parks and biosphere reserves, for example, is essential for CI 's ultimate success in protecting global biodiversity.

Within CI's People, Protected Areas and Corridors department, the Population Environment program seeks to reduce human impact and pressure on the limited natural resources in rural, biologically rich important areas and improve local conservation activities by providing communities with basic health services, such as family planning and reproductive health services, and information and training in improved agricultural or agroforestry techniques.

Currently, the main activities of the Population Environment program include:

Healthy Families, Healthy Forests Program

Working with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Madagascar, the Philippines and Cambodia along with local NGOs and partners, CI is helping rural communities understand the relationship between having smaller, healthier families and improving the stewardship of natural resources and protecting forests that are habitat for globally significant biodiversity.

Each country program has adopted an integrated conservation and health objective and has selected partners based on existing relations in the target communities and complementary skills to existing CI staff and activities.

CI-Philippines staff based in the northern Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor working with the NGO PROCESS Luzon and local government units to implement reproductive health and family planning campaigns among communities and local health workers. The program also works to improve natural resource and forest management practices.

In Madagascar, CI works with local NGOs, MATEZA and ASOS, in a partnership to deliver comprehensive health services (reproductive health, maternal and child health) in the biologically rich conservation corridor of Zahemena Mantadia in the eastern part of Madagascar. MATEZA is working in the north of the corridor near Fenerive and ASOS is working in the south near Brickaville. Each organization depends on field agents in these remote areas to deliver health services and educate farmers and their families about alternatives to tavy, or slash and burn agricultural practices. Mateza encourages farmers adopting alternative techniques to teach other farmers the skills they need, while ASOS helps communities set goals in health, environment, and conservation.

In Cambodia, CI partners with CARE Cambodia and Save Cambodia's Wildlife in the eastern Cardamoms to implement a holistic reproductive health and family planning outreach program coupled with IEC and livelihood activities about sustainable forest management and alternative use of non-timber forestry products. In addition, CI has engaged local stakeholders in community land use planning exercises to determine local conservation and development priorities.

Meeting Population and Conservation Needs in Mexico's Selva Lacandona

The Selva Lacandona in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas has some of the highest levels of biological diversity in Mexico and the Mesoamerican biological corridor. This vast reserve of floral and faunal species is under increasing pressure from rapid population growth and unsustainable natural resource utilization patterns. With support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, CI has been working to implement an integrated health and conservation project in the Selva Lacandona, particularly the area surrounding the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.

Community Conservation Coalition

Through the USAID Healthy Families, Healthy Forests grant, CI's Population-Environment program manages the Community Conservation Coalition (CCC). The CCC works to increase innovation, communication, collaboration and institutional change within international member organizations headquartered in DC to adopt approaches that integrate conservation with social development issues such as population, health, education and the economy. The CCC sponsors presentations and seminars on emerging conservation topics such as impacts of human migration on conservation and the Champion Community approach in Madagascar. The CCC also raises the awareness of conservation and development issues through: the production and dissemination of a CD of social science tools for conservation practioners: "Putting Conservation in Context: Social Science Tools for Conservation Practitioners"; the coordination of events at the World Conservation Congress 2004 concerning gender and conservation; and support of research into human migration.

Resources and Links
CI Wide
CABS: Human Dimensions Program
Frontlines: "Conservation Corridors: Helping People and Nature Co-exist"
Frontlines: "Indigenous reserves a force for conservation"

On the Web
U.S. AID Office of Population and Reproductive Health: www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/pop
The David and Lucille Packard Foundation: www.packard.org
The University of Michigan Population-Environment Fellows Program: www.sph.umich.edu/pfps
Population Action International: www.populationaction.org
Population Reference Bureau: www.prb.org
World Wildlife Fund: www.panda.org
Environmental Health Project: www.ehproject.org
Woodrow Wilson Center: www.wilsoncenter.org


© CI, Olivier Langrand
In Madagascar, efforts are underway to deliver comprehensive health services including reproductive health, maternal and child health care.

© Lily Alcantara
In North Luzon in the Philippines, traditional birth attendants are trained in reproductive health, family planning, and environmental conservation.

© CI, Carol Boender
Farmers in Madagascar are introduced to alternatives to tavy, or slash and burn agricultural practices. CI works with local partners and farmers to develop replanting programs.

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Photo credits for banner images: (Greater Flamingos © Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures); (Diagonal-banded Sweetlips © Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures);
(Madagascar Aloe © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures); (Hippo © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures); (Hummingbird © Pete Oxford); (Malagasy Frog © Piotr Naskrecki/CI)